Workshop on “Green Revolution in Eastern India: Constraints, Opportunities and Way Forward”

Workshop in New Delhi

Eastern region of India, comprising Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, accounts for more than 50 percent of nation’s food insecure and poor population. These states could not reap the benefits of Green Revolution which was exceedingly successful in accelerating agricultural production and productivity and reducing rural poverty levels. While the nation takes pride in achieving food self-sufficiency with a record production of 273 million tons and reducing the incidence of poverty from 53 percent in 1977/78 to 21.4 percent in 2011/12, the reality is that the eastern states are quite a distance away from reaching the average national agriculture productivity levels and in mitigating poverty and hunger.

As these states were largely bypassed from the High Yielding Varieties (HYV) seeds and other such technologies and continue to have poor agriculture productivity levels, the Government has embarked upon a major mission, popularly known as BGREI-Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India. The main focus of this bold initiative has been to augment land productivity as agriculture is the main source of livelihood and employment for majority of rural population in the region.

To understand how this important initiative of the government can be taken forward, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Tata Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) jointly organised a national conference during October 9-10, 2017. The conference was attended 150 delegates. Eminent economists, agricultural scientists and policy makers shared their views on macro as well as micro issues that have been holding back agricultural growth in the Eastern states. The participants deliberated upon several aspects viz. technological, land use, institutional, climate change and risk, investments, food security and migration to find appropriate strategies that would help the Eastern states in unleashing their potential.

Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), attributed low agricultural productivity in the eastern region to small size of land holdings and inadequate rural infrastructure. He laid emphasis on diversification of agriculture by the small farmers to harness the opportunities in horticulture and fisheries activities and income gains. He suggested formation of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) or Aggregators who can provide easy market access to farmers for their produce.

Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research Education (DARE) and Director General, ICAR, highlighted a strong need to bring convergence in policies and efforts from planning to implementation which can help in bringing green revolution in the eastern region. An increased spending on agriculture Research and Development (R&D) and improving extension services can go a long way in increasing crop productivity.

Dr P K Joshi, Director IFPRI-South Asia, IFPRI reiterated that India’s eastern region suffers from natural calamities and is largely rainfed. However, it offers numerous opportunities like utilization of rice fallows, cultivation of non-food crops including fruits-vegetables, and their value addition in processing industry. To harness these opportunities, it is important that these states bridge the yield gaps and have climate smart agriculture. He also emphasised to treat agriculture as an agri-business profession whereby entrepreneurship should be promoted among the farmers. In doing so, business models that are best suited for this region should be explored with adequate financial support by the lending agencies and banks.

The conference concluded with some key recommendations-

  • Technological development is critical for accelerated and sustainable agricultural development in the region. Special focus need to be given on adoption of improved seed varieties, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), farm mechanization and conservation agriculture.
  • Reforms are needed in inputs delivery chain (seed, fertilizer etc) and promotion of rental markets (farm machinery, irrigation, land) to ensure optimal land and water use.
  • Institutional reforms are required in improving agricultural marketing, financing, insurance and formation of FPOs/cooperatives.
  • Increase in infrastructural investment by the government in areas such as irrigation, cold chain, reefer vans and other logistics, roads and other transport mechanisms for high value perishable commodities is the need of the hour.

Presentations

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Op-ed article

International Workshop Highlights Path for India to Reach Development Goals

Launch of 2017 GFPR, India

On Thursday, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) began a two-day international conference in New Delhi on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through agriculture in India.

While India met several of the Millennium Development Goals – the precursor to the SDGs – much of the country continues to suffer from poverty and food insecurity. More than 300 million people in South Asia live in poverty, with up to 71 percent of them living in India. Improving the country’s agricultural sector presents an opportunity to address both urban and rural development needs.

“To accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that policy makers support transformations in the region’s food system, and some of the greatest changes to India’s food system are coming from rapid urbanization,” said Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI. “Connecting farmers to cities can raise incomes in rural areas and help meet urban food and nutrition demand.”

Fan provided a keynote address on the impact of rapid urbanization on development and food security in India, as well as the role agricultural research plays in meeting the SDGs. His address included key findings from IFPRI’s 2017 Global Food Policy Report, an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, which focuses this year on the impact rapid urbanization is having on health, poverty, and development.

The conference comprised up to 150 participants, including government officials, agricultural scientists, and development agency experts.

Many of the workshop’s discussions also focused on the role of technology in meeting the development goals. Breakout sessions looked at the broad applications of technology in genetic enhancement, natural resource management, and farm mechanization, as well as its role in specific agricultural sectors such as crop production and livestock management.

“Access to technology is already beginning to change the landscape of agriculture” continued Fan. “Take cell phones for example. More than half of farmers who provide food to Delhi are using cell phones to directly negotiate prices for staple crops. Leveraging the power of technology can help connect farmers to markets, optimize agricultural output, and ultimately improve livelihoods.”

Presentations

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Toward A New Project Prioritization, Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy

Participants at the workshop in New Delhi
Participants at the workshop in New Delhi

Konark Sikka is an intern with IFPRI- South Asia office

Monitoring is a systematic collection of progress information on projects on the basis of performance parameters. Evaluation is systematically assessing data or results on targets and achievements of on-going or completed projects in order to make strategic decisions. What makes projects successful is keeping track of the goals and outputs. Reaching project milestones in a timely manner is also crucial. In short, monitoring and evaluation is an important tool in project management.

On February 23, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM), and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) organized a “Workshop on PME Indicators and Implementation Strategy” at the NAAS offices in New Delhi. The aim of the one-day event was to discuss the draft of a Project Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) Manual.

The themes of the manual were presented by Dr. Mruthyunjaya, former National Director of the National Agriculture Innovative Project. They include selecting research projects according to priorities, monitoring progress periodically using suitable indicators, and evaluating achievements against objectives/targets. The manual also describes user-friendly procedures to carry out PME and development of software that would improve analysis. It focuses on three Research Project Proposal (RPP) formats prescribed by Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) for research project management:

  1. To provide a professional exercise to aid in decision-making. This includes prioritizing by using scores on indicators; addressing priorities of institutes; innovations expected from the study; adequacy of scientist time allocation; economic evaluation and cost efficiency; and how appropriately the expected output would answer the questions raised by the study.
  2. To deliver better monitoring and aid project implementation within planned time scales. This involves field/lab visits by experts twice a year as well as annual reports, performance indicators, and results framework documents.
  3.  Evaluation of projects to involve collection and analysis of information on achievements of indicators determined at the beginning of the project versus the realization of outcomes at the conclusion.

Participants discussed topics such as structural differences in PME Cells of institutions, optimum functions of PME Cells, budgets and how to work within them, and economic evaluation of long-term projects. Other issues that emerged during the workshop included: an emphasis on economics over available human resources to evaluate projects when it came to economic assessments; priority setting, with a common theme being that priorities were sometimes set according to the institute head’s research interests as well as some resource allocation to be given to creative, novel ideas beyond the identified priority areas of the institute;  and making the scoring system more flexible to account for different disciplines, which have different priorities.

Dr. P.K. Joshi, the Director IFPRI South Asia, synthesized the discussion. He stated that it was important to draw a distinction between impact assessment and evaluation. Using seed varieties as an example, a variety would yield results in 20 years, but project evaluation would take place at several stages, whereas impact assessment would take place only at the end of the project. Project monitoring and evaluation is what the PME manual works at. Furthermore, priority setting need not only be carried out at the beginning of projects; it can also be done over the course of them. Finally, on what makes a monitoring indicator, Dr. Joshi said that it could be anything, ranging from buying new equipment, setting up a lab or even hiring a research associate. Impact need not necessarily be an indicator. He added that the PME manual would be useful in assessing potentially risky projects.

 

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